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Archives for December 17, 2014

Tips for Winter Gardening In California

Aired 12/17/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Nan Sterman, garden journalist and host of the KPBS show A Growing Passion

People throughout San Diego, and California, are re-thinking their yards and making the shift to drought tolerant plants.

Gardening expert Nan Sterman has written three books on gardening with native and low-water plant species.

Sterman said the best variety of plants to have this time of year are those best suited for California’s Mediterranean climate, and plants native to the four other Mediterranean climates of the world.

“Because it’s cool, the plants don’t get heat stressed,” said Sterman. “[Plants] don’t go through so much transplant shock when the weather cools.”

Keeping the roots moist is vital to the planting process.

“When a new plant is becoming established, roots are settling in and need to take up enough water to establish the plant.,” Sterman said.

She said it can take more than a year for a plant to establish its roots.

A common mistake people make when buying plants is not taking the size of the plant into consideration, she said.

When plants are too large, they will require more pruning, which leads to more green waste. Sterman said picking smaller plants will result in less work for gardeners.

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Pro Tips for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Free Titles Available For …

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare brings an all new range of exciting and explosive attacks to Popcap’s long-lived zombie-killing franchise. These attacks can be enjoyed in a variety of different innovative flavors. We now have the Zombie Foot Soldier’s ZPG to the Peashooter’s Chili Bean Bomb and a lot more in-between.

What they lack in terms of accuracy, they make up for it with their strength. A strategically used Chili-Bomb can devastate a horde of zombies around the garden. The disturbing Cactus that has been shooting you the entire game can be easily decimated with a clean Rocket Launcher shot. The trick lies in using all of your weapons in a wise manner.

Dealing huge amounts of damage in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will always give you a good fighting chance. So, if you get a chance, never let go of an opportunity to use it. Keep in mind that there are moments when hordes of zombies will try to overwhelm your base. Keep your cool while choosing and executing your strategies. Try everything; even the Allstar’s Imp Punt is good enough for anything your enemies throw at you.

Line up your strategies, weapons and shots correctly you’ll end up brimming with points, currency to unlock even stranger characters and Zombie blood/chlorophyll.  While running as a Cactus, you can carve your opponents by dropping Potato Mines behind you. Throw the Scientist’s Sticky Exploding Balls accurately in order to ensure victory.

Even if you are on the receiving end of these devastating weapons, you need not worry too much. Each one of them can be easily spotted and avoided. Potato Mines have the tendency of sticking their antennas out of the ground while Chili Bean Bombs make a characteristic squealing sound before exploding.

The punted imps can be spotted from a mile away while the smoke trail of a Rocket coming at you should be warning enough. You need to keep your eyes peeled in order to increase the chances of survival even by a matter of a few seconds. It just takes a precise well-planned moment to completely demolish the plans of your enemies in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

In other news, EA’s Peter Moore declared at PlayStation Experience that three free games will be announced for all PS platforms during the weekend. These include Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for PS4, Need for Speed Most Wanted 2012 on the Vita and the critically-acclaimed Mirror’s Edge on the PS3. The games will be available for a limited time only.

However, it is unclear whether you get to keep these games for eternity. At first, these goodies were only available for the North American users but presently the games are available for free in Europe as well.

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Tim’s Tips: Holiday prep should include garden chores

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 3:00 am

Tim’s Tips: Holiday prep should include garden chores

Tim’s Tips Tim Lamprey

The Daily News of Newburyport

This week, I thought that I would remind you of some of the chores that you need to finish before the snow flies into our yards for the winter.

For whatever reason, many trees didn’t drop their leaves until very late in the fall. You don’t want to have those leaves sitting on the lawn all winter. The buildup of leaves can smother the grass, and the breaking down of the leaves can acidify the lawn. As much as you don’t want to add raking leaves to your holiday activities, get those leaves cleaned up.

Once the leaves are cleaned up, take a look at the grass. Has your grass grown since the last time you mowed the lawn? If the grass is longer than an inch and a half, you should get the mower out one last time and cut the grass to that height.

If you leave the grass long going into the winter, it will mat down and you will very likely develop a lawn disease called snow mold. This will lead to dead patches in your lawn. These patches may need to be reseeded in the spring. If it needs to be done, make sure to do that final cutting of your lawn.

Somewhere in the shed or the garage, you have your gardening tools. You probably have a hand trowel, a long-handle shovel, a pair of pruners and other tools. These need to be cleaned up before winter really sets in. Any left-on sap or dirt can cause your tools to rust. You can scrape off the dirt, or you can use a wire brush to remove any caked-on dirt or sap.

Tools should be sharpened before spring so that once the weather breaks, you are ready to get gardening again. If you don’t know how to sharpen your tools, tool sharpening is a service that many garden centers offer for a nominal charge.

If you haven’t gotten those garden chemicals out of the shed or unheated garage, you need to do so immediately. Liquid garden chemicals and aerosols should not be allowed to freeze. Aerosols will seldom spray after they have frozen. Many liquid garden chemicals become less effective or ineffective if they are allowed to freeze.

Gather all those bottles and aerosols, and get them into the cellar or other inside location where they will not freeze.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.  


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 3:00 am.

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Meet Marty Wingate, author of garden-based mystery books: Carol T. Bradford

Marty Wingate is the Seattle-based author of two garden-themed mysteries, with a third in the works. We spoke to her about her first novel, The Garden Plot, an e-book available for Kindle.

I’m not revealing anything when I say that your victim gets whacked with a spade in the garden shed. Did you always want to tell stories or did you grow into it?

I think I grew into it. When I went to college I was told I should be a writer, and I remember thinking “writers write fiction; I can’t write fiction.” But later a friend encouraged me, saying “you should write a garden mystery.” I’ve probably always been a writer but I’ve come full circle from my start in journalism, through different careers.

Marty Wingate 

You’ve spent time in UK gardens, and there are clever references to various places throughout the book. Do you want ideas from your readers?

I would love to get recommendations for gardens to visit. I visit the open gardens on National Gardens Scheme listed every year in the Yellow Book. I love the whole atmosphere. A friend’s garden was open and when I went to see her just before the day she was busy making her own cakes for the afternoon tea.

Your detective is Pru Parke, a Texan transplanted to Chelsea, a famously classy neighborhood in London. You didn’t say much about what she looks like. In the UK they’d make a TV series once you had written a half dozen or so novels. Who’s going to play Pru?

My publisher said that, too. Like they’re going to ask ME. I have not chosen anyone yet. Of course I can visualize the set of a BBC production.

Rochelle Greayer is a garden designer, editor and writer. Her book is Cultivating Garden Style, published by Timber Press.

There’s enough material in your book for three books, the outdoor style book, the do-it-yourself fun weekend project book, and Gardening 101. Where should a reader begin?

Have you seen the quiz that I put together? It will get you started figuring out what your style might tend towards. While I encourage a start to finish read (eventually), I would begin by flipping through, landing on images that make me gasp with delight. I’d take note of the chapters and read those first. After I’d done that, I’d take my time popping all around the book. I wrote with this approach in mind. I wanted this book to be one that you could pick up today, next week, a year from now, open it, be inspired, learn something new and never feel the need to read it all at once.

You wrote that you stand firmly in the position that a garden should make sense in the climate and the culture of the place. That said, some of the most personal and engaging gardens are those that are wildly out of synch with the neighborhood. How would you advise a reader who likes a challenge?

Gardens are personal, just like our homes, our clothes, our music, our art. But it is easy to look next door and compare and copy. The challenge is always to take ideas, run them though our own filter and make them our own. That is how all great artists and designers translate their inspiration. Luckily we have modern tools to help us visualize. Mood boards (either real ones made from magazine cut outs or digital ones like Pinterest) are the best way to get started. You have to get in touch with your own sense of style and then build off that.

You’ve gardened in several different places, and wrote that your own style is a mix. What are the essentials for you?

I never want to be able to see the whole garden at once, so besides having a place to sit and perhaps eat outside, I create obstructions that break things up, make it interesting, and give you a good reason to walk just a little further into the scene. This could be a wall, a change of elevation, a tree, a hedge, a fence, or even a flower bed.

Carol Bradford gardens in Syracuse. Send your questions and location to her at

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Rosie on the House: Gutters do matter, even in our desert climate

Gutters? Who needs gutters? Many Arizona homes have none at all — particularly homes in newer subdivisions in Central and Southern Arizona. 

Perhaps the builder didn’t bother to put gutters on your house — as a way of keeping his construction costs down. If you’re living in a desert that only gets eight inches of rain a year, gutters might seem as unusual as 50-foot redwood trees. When that big monsoon hits, you only have to sit it out for a few hours with water pouring off the roof in sheets. Then it’s over and you forget about most drainage issues until the next time.

Gutters also need regular maintenance — like cleaning out those pesky birds’ nests and repainting and repairing holes and gaps. Some homeowners probably also consider those metal tubes known as gutters as unsightly pipelines on the façade of their houses.

So why have gutters at all? Why not just tough it out now and then?

“The advantage of gutters is that you can divert water away from the foundation of a house,” says Tim Dolan of JLC Enterprises in Gilbert. “That can reduce the impact on your foundations.” 

Why move that water away from foundations? The problem is that when that water puddles up for a long time near the base of your home, the soil can begin to swell. To a certain extent, sidewalks and planter boxes can trap the water coming off your roof in the area right next to your walls. In the worst case, if this saturation goes on for 10 to 15 years, you may need foundation repairs.

It starts when you see suspicious cracks inside the house in the perimeter walls and notice doors sticking when you try opening them. You may think it’s just settling, but it’s more than that. 

The floor may start to slope downward from the center toward the outside walls. The slab under your house could be “heaving up” and cracking your tiles or changing the floor in some way.

Heavy moisture — due to lack of gutters — can also get inside the outside stucco of your home through tiny cracks, seep into your drywall, and cause mold and similar sticky issues.

If water falls directly on an exterior door during a rainstorm, it can eventually compromise the framing if not the door itself. The wood can be soaked and begin to swell or even rot.

Even if you don’t have gutters now, you can retrofit your home fairly easily. You don’t have to do the entire house if you don’t want to, Dolan says. 

Maybe you just need to do the sections of the house that have the most serious problems, like around your back patio where water coming off the roof washes all the sand out from patio pavers or a doorway where you get soaked as you walk out of the house. 

Gutters can come in a variety of colors so you don’t usually have to paint them before putting them on a house. Installation generally costs about $6 to $8 a linear foot. 

Now might be a great time to install those gutters before January, one of our wetter months.


Draining the water away

When gutters are installed, you also need to work out a way to move water as far away as possible from the house. 

In the ideal case, water should run off the roof into gutters and then through downspouts and hard pipes that drain a minimum of 10 feet away from your home. Some gutters are installed to run the water into underground drains or to a dry well on the property. 

Sometimes they drain into a “dry river” of rocks that runs down a slight slope off your lot. Those dry rivers are like having your very own little desert wash in your yard. 

Use at least three sizes of native rocks and put larger rocks toward the center of the “wash.” Hopefully, the water will be completely absorbed and not run into the street.

Some homeowners also build what are called French drains, trenches filled with gravel that can also contain a perforated pipe. 

Another tip: Use landscaping materials that let water penetrate the soil. Do not use plastic under crushed granite that surrounds your plants. Permeable paving blocks work well to keep water running into the soil.

Remember, you cannot divert the water onto your neighbor’s property and you certainly don’t want to move it to where it might endanger a fence or wall you share with a neighbor. 


Rainwater harvesting

You’re probably wondering if you can do rainwater harvesting and collection. Instead of getting rid of the water by running it down toward the street, what about saving some of it for future use? 

Only a small amount of rainwater harvesting or collection probably happens in the urban areas of Arizona right now, but it could be the wave of the future in our very dry state. According to Mark Wentland, a designer with CYC Landscaping in Gilbert, it’s hard to collect much water in the Phoenix area where rainfall totals usually don’t exceed much more than 8 inches. It becomes more feasible in and around Tucson, where some areas get 12 inches or more.

But if you’re interested, you can turn the rain into a wonderful resource for your yard. You can use your irrigation system less and save money on your water bill. Landscaping experts suggest:

– reating concave depressions on your landscape to help retain the water falling on your property. Use berms or terracing; place plants at a slightly higher grade in these areas though so roots don’t get too moist. You can even turn your lawn into a swale rather than a mound in order to catch water.

– uilding a channel in the soil under your roof drip line and directing water 10 feet away to a planted landscaping area.

– atching rainwater under downspouts in barrels or even garbage cans. You can buy barrels that are sealed or that use screens or other devices to keep mosquitoes from accessing water storage areas. You can run a hose from a spigot in the barrel to your plants.

Next week, we’ll share our some ideas for how to clean up after those rollicking holiday festivities.


For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program heard locally in Phoenix on KTAR-FM (92.3) from 8-11 a.m. Consult our website for other listings. Call 888-767-4348.

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Helping birds survive winter


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Monday, December 15, 2014 2:05 PM EST

Helping birds survive winter

A male Downy Woodpecker, left, and a Black-capped Chickadee share a bird feeder. (Chuck Berman/ Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Now is the time, before winter gets too serious, to do something for birds. And maybe for yourself too.

“One of the greatest benefits of feeding birds is that the homeowner can easily see what birds are using their land, and develop a greater appreciation of birds,” says Michael Ward, an assistant professor in the department of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

So with that in mind, here are a few ideas to help birds withstand the winter weather — and maybe even provide some education and entertainment for the kids.

n Hold off with the pruners. If you haven’t already cut back all your dead vegetation from the summer — don’t. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, those plants — particularly the tall ones that will poke above the snow — provide shelter for birds. Another idea is to create a brush pile to protect them. You can always tidy things up later — that’s why they call it “spring cleaning.” And looking ahead, Ward says landscaping a yard with native bushes and shrubs can make it a welcoming habitat for wintering birds. So plan next spring’s planting accordingly.

n Repurpose your Christmas tree. Speaking of shelter, your Christmas tree can do double-duty till spring, providing protection as well as a food source. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension suggests placing the tree — stripped of decorations, lights and tinsel — on the south or east side of the house to afford cover from north and west winds.

To secure it, put the stump in a hole or a bucket of wet sand, and tie a rope from the top to a building or nearby tree. Then redecorate the tree, but with strings of popcorn, cranberries or raisins. The UNL Extension also says to add apples, oranges, leftover breads and pine cones covered with peanut butter and then dipped in birdseed. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree.

n Coming home to roost. The Cornell Lab also suggests roost boxes. Birds will seek shelter in nesting boxes in the winter, resulting in overcrowded conditions (they’re used as nests only in spring and summer). Besides, these boxes are for nesting, not roosting. But a roost box can protect any birds that nest in boxes: bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and small woodpeckers.

A good roost box keeps the birds’ body heat contained and has interior perches, and can be placed on a metal pole or wooden post. They’re available in stores, or you can make your own. The Washington Department of Fish Wildlife offers roost box-building instructions.

n Kid-friendly adventures. Encourage the kids’ involvement in setting up a bird feeder and choosing the best food (good information on seed choices is available at Get a reliable field guide (the Sibley field guides are good and have versions for different geographical locations) or free app ( to identify the birds that use the feeder. Have the kids keep a journal and report their findings to or

n Avian superfoods. High-fat, high-energy foods such as suet and sunflower seeds are preferable in winter. On a cold night, chickadees lose 25 percent of their body weight. And be consistent in your feeding, putting out seeds or suet (or seed-studded suet balls) regularly. If the birds come to rely on you for a constant supply of food, and you close up shop when a storm hits, they might not survive. Once they know food is always available, they’ll keep coming back — not only in winter but year-round.

n Water is key. Just as birds need food, they also need water during the coldest days. Spring for a birdbath heater to keep water from freezing. There are many models to choose from; check your local independent garden center or big box store. And be sure to keep the bird bath clean.

n Embrace the circle of life. Raptors — hawks and falcons — have become more evident in urban settings, as people have stopped harassing them and there is abundant food. If you feed birds, know that some of your feathered friends could end up as that food. No reason to be upset; they belong here, and they need to eat, too.

“There is not much you can do to either increase or decrease hawks in your neighborhood,” says Ward, who also is an avian ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey. “As trees get mature and people continue to promote small birds, hawks will come. … (People) are concerned when a hawks eats a bird off their feeder, but that is just a sign that the bird community is robust and not something to be particularly concerned about.”

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First Round: (5) Westside vs. (12) Ansley Park


Ten to 15 short years ago, gloomy industrial landscapes and unloved warehouses were the norm in Westside (aka West Midtown), but all that has changed in recent years. The neighborhood (area of several neighborhoods, if truth be told) has made big moves with a spate of creative adaptive reuse projects, arts venues like Goat Farm and King Plow, renovated galleries, hip retail spaces and incredible restaurants that have transformed the area into a foodie paradise. Despite all of the amenities, it’s still possible to get some damn fine loft-style living for a reasonable price in the burgeoning neighborhood. Early chatter from Curbed Cup nominators suggests that this could be Westside’s year — and they haven’t even built Atlanta Waterworks Park yet. On the downside: Traffic congestion can be a real nightmare, and the influx of new projects isn’t making that any better.


Westside may have a TopGolf coming soon, but Ansley Park has a private country club… not to mention mansions, green spaces galore and general swankiness/grandeur. Built starting in 1904 as the first suburb designed for cars, Ansley Park remains a little haven of wide, winding streets and lavish landscaping next to the hustle-bustle and gleaming skyline of Midtown — the best of both worlds, if you will. Its streets of stunning homes — which include Queen Annes, Tudors, Colonials, Neoclassical designs, and Craftsmen — are on the National Register of Historic Places and are beautiful enough to warrant an annual tour of homes… but they’ll cost you a pretty penny. Ansley is not for struggling artists or students. This is the affluent neighborhood’s first year in the Curbed Cup, so supporters are gonna need to step up with the votes if they want to keep their alcove of gorgeous architecture in the running.

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Curbed Cup First Round: (5) South Lake Union vs. (12) Wallingford

The Curbed Cup, Curbed Seattle annual Neighborhood of the Year tournament, begins today. The deserving candidates will be presented in two match-ups per day through the week, with results reviewed on Friday. Polls are open for 24 hours, starting now!

This round, South Lake Union versus Wallingford. Which deserves the Cup more, waterfront and infused with corporate projects in new buildings, or up on the hill with boutiques in old one stories?
6724150701_46a331561a.jpgFlickr/Will Merydith

In this corner…South Lake Union. Not long ago the only reason to go to South Lake Union was to either visit the boats or drive through to another part of the city. Now, corporations have big plans for the space. Brain scientists are moving in. How geeky cool is that? The restaurants on the water have always been attractive, and if you live there, you don’t need a car to reach anything in the city.


In the other corner…Wallingford. Wallingford is houses, shops, schools, all the things that appeal to families. And trees, and gardens. Some of the houses have been there long enough that the landscaping is old enough to collect Social Security. Of course, you probably have to commute, but isn’t it nice to come home to Wallingford Center?

It’s a battle between the new waterfront and the old shops. Who moves on to the Elite Eight?

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Marple approves CSS land development



Marple Commissioners voted 6-0, Dec. 10, to approve the land development plan filed by Catholic Social Services (CSS) for construction of a residential mini-campus on the grounds of the Sisters of Mercy Convent, 1701 Sproul Road.

The action was the first by the board in connection with the sale this fall of more than 200 acres, including Don Guanella Village, by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The land was purchased by Goodman Properties, which owns and manages five million square feet of retail space in the tri-state area and Evansville, Ind., and is expected to seek development of the parcel for commercial and residential use.

The Archdiocese announced last year that the village, which serves as a home for men with developmental disabilities, would be closing and the residents, including those living in the building formerly known as the Cardinal Krol Center, moved from the institutional to more residential locations. Part of the sale allowed the Archdiocese to retain several acres for construction of a setting for 27 medically-fragile men.

The plans show three, one-story buildings, similar to those on the Notre Dame de Lourdes campus in Ridley Township, on a 2.7-acre parcel near the convent. Each will accommodate ten individuals and the family-based facility will provide specialized and skilled nursing care.

“There is a great need, as people with Downs Syndrome can develop early-onset Alzheimer’s,” said the Rev. Dennis Webber. “They typically have the disease for three to five years compared to others who may live for seven to 12 years.”

Webber added as rooms are available, they may be offered to residents of Divine Providence Village, a CSS facility in the township for women with developmental disabilities, or individuals living with their families.

The design, which was approved by the Planning Commission, also showed an 18-by-18 foot shed, parking for a maximum of 20 vehicles and access through extension of an internal driveway from the Cardinal O’Hara High School parking lot. Landscaping, including two rain gardens and two underground basins, will be installed along Sproul Road.

The land is zoned Institutional and the use is allowed by right. As a condition of approval, the applicant agreed to contribute $7,500 to the township traffic signal fund for future traffic signal pre-emption improvements along the Springfield/Sproul Road corridor.

Rob Fortebuono was unable to attend the meeting.

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